FORT WORTH, Texas — Clint Bowyer almost got the dream accident he needed Sunday in his longshot bid for the Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship.
Kasey Kahne was involved in the accident that ended his AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Bowyer, who came into the race 26 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson, finished sixth and dropped 36 behind race winner Johnson. Kahne, who was 29 points out, brushed the wall after contact with Jeff Gordon that dropped him from a top-10 car to a 25th-place finish.
That dropped Kahne and the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com/Great Clips Chevrolet to 58 points behind Johnson with just two races remaining.
It could have been a different story if the banging Johnson and Brad Keselowski did in the final laps of the race would have led to problems for the two Chase frontrunners.
“I thought they were going to wreck each other, but they didn’t,” Bowyer said “It would have been awesome. I really did think they were going to wreck each other.”
Johnson knew that was a possibility too, saying he didn’t want to be “wadded up there handing the 5 and the 15 a big gift.”
Bowyer’s finish didn’t wreck the championship hopes of the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota team, but it did put a big dent in them.
Bowyer ran in the top 10 for most of the race but never led a lap. He was boxed in trying to exit the pits after one stop, which cost him some time. He also had a slow stop on the penultimate pit stop, which cost him track position. Once he got on the track, his car was loose for most of the race, hampering any chance to run with the leaders.
“Right across the center it seemed like they (the leaders) could get up to the throttle and keep it down a little bit better, a little earlier and a little bit harder than I could,” Bowyer said. “They kept trying to free it up and kept trying to fix the problem. Every time we would, we’d get loose in and it would kind of snap off and carry loose off. We kept losing track position and it’s really hard to make up.”
So is a 36-point deficit, and Bowyer knows that. He’s finished sixth or better in each of the last four races and has lost ground.
“You keep having these top-10 runs and flirting with the top fives week in and week out and unless you’re winning these races every week, you just can’t gain points,” he said.
Math may be the only thing keeping Kahne in the championship picture after a night in which he was the lone Chase driver not to finish on the lead lap.
He had a top-10 car for most of the race but was only briefly in the top 5 and ended up being the worst of the four Hendrick Motorsports cars, with the other three finishing in the top 14.
It was contact with his teammate Gordon that doomed him, as it cut his left rear tire and sent him into the wall. That incident led to a debris caution at Lap 322 and cost Kahne his spot on the lead lap.
Kahne, who qualified 13th, came to Texas riding momentum after finishes of eighth, fourth and third in his last three starts. That momentum, as well as his title hopes, is gone now.